December 2015. The end of another year of fire-storms, earthquakes, hurricanes and other Cecil B. DeMille-style reminders of the impending apocalypse we have wrought by messing with the world’s climate. But don’t lock the door to your fallout shelter and settle in with your 780 cans of pea soup just yet.
With all the terrible news in the world, I thought we might want to end the year with a glimmer of good news, from … Paris. Surprising as it may seem, one of the few bright spots in an otherwise grim news cycle is coming from the Paris talks on climate change. Just the other morning, when a reporter following the proceedings was asked about the general mood, he said, “We’ve gone from a glass quarter-full to a glass half-full.” That’s progress. But in this column I’d like to talk about a brilliant and timely example of marketing at the Paris talks, brought to you not by some savvy marketing organization, or K Street lobbyist, but a Danish geologist and a scientific organization.
The Place du Pantheon in the 5th arrondissement of Paris is the unlikely venue of an incredible climate change-inspired art installation. The project, known as Ice Watch Paris, has turned the square into a massive clock, with 12 icebergs from the Greenland ice sheet arranged to represent the hours on the clock. Together, the icebergs weigh nearly 80 tons. To all those who say the organizers may be adding to the problem by taking ice out of Greenland, here’s a sobering fact: due to rising global temperatures, the Greenland ice sheet currently loses thousands of similarly sized icebergs each second. Yes, each second.
“Climate change is all very abstract, so we wanted to try to attempt to put some reality into the perception of this,” said Minik Rosing, a Danish geologist and co-creator of the installation, in an interview with Think Progress, an environmental website. “Many of us live in an abstract world, where everything is thoughts and ideas and things we can talk ourselves out of. This is actually a reality. You cannot talk yourself out of this.”
This is experiential marketing at its best. The pieces of ice themselves, according to onlookers, are beautiful and unworldly and nothing at all like what you would imagine clinking in your Scotch, which somehow makes saving them even more urgent. Climate change science seems abstract and distant, in the words of Mr. Rosing, and there is no better way to make them tangible than to bring these silent representatives of the last Ice Age into the bustling pathways of our modern life.
A new interactive ad by M&C Saatchi Stockholm for Swedish pension management company SPP takes that theme even further, by showing you two alternative visions of the future, utopian and dystopian; check it out at http://earth2045.com/. The online display allows you to see the consequences of your actions and decisions by toggling between a bright future and an increasingly grim version that looks like Margaret Atwood created it while suffering from a hangover.
As a species, we find it very hard to project our current actions into the future. It shows up in so many ways: the lack of 401(k) contributions, the abandoned New Year’s resolutions, even not showing up to vote. Nowhere is that inability more dangerous than when it comes to climate change. This interactive exhibit is one way to get people to confront a reality they might not otherwise consider.
But meanwhile, here’s to Paris, and glasses slowly filling up with good cheer. Happy holidays and let’s do all we can to nudge that slider back to the utopian future we all want ourselves and our children to live in.